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Among the Ten Thousand Things
Cover of Among the Ten Thousand Things
Among the Ten Thousand Things
A Novel
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
  • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE AND THE HUFFINGTON POSTFeatures an exclusive conversation between Julia Pierpont and Lena Dunham
    For fans of Jennifer Egan, Jonathan Franzen, Lorrie Moore, and Curtis Sittenfeld, Among the Ten Thousand Things is a dazzling first novel, a portrait of an American family on the cusp of irrevocable change, and a startlingly original story of love and time lost.

    Jack Shanley is a well-known New York artist, charming and vain, who doesn't mean to plunge his family into crisis. His wife, Deb, gladly left behind a difficult career as a dancer to raise the two children she adores. In the ensuing years, she has mostly avoided coming face-to-face with the weaknesses of the man she married. But then an anonymously sent package arrives in the mail: a cardboard box containing sheaves of printed emails chronicling Jack's secret life. The package is addressed to Deb, but it's delivered into the wrong hands: her children's.
    With this vertiginous opening begins a debut that is by turns funny, wise, and indescribably moving. As the Shanleys spin apart into separate orbits, leaving New York in an attempt to regain their bearings, fifteen-year-old Simon feels the allure of adult freedoms for the first time, while eleven-year-old Kay wanders precariously into a grown-up world she can't possibly understand. Writing with extraordinary precision, humor, and beauty, Julia Pierpont has crafted a timeless, hugely enjoyable novel about the bonds of family life—their brittleness, and their resilience.
    Praise for Among the Ten Thousand Things
    "A luscious, smart summer novel . . . by a blazingly talented young author."The New York Times Book Review

    "This book is one of the funniest, and most emotionally honest, I've read in a long time."—Jonathan Safran Foer

    "Obsessively compelling . . . emotionally sophisticated . . . Among the Ten Thousand Things rises above [other novels] for its imagined structure, sentence-by-sentence punch, and pure humanity."Vanity Fair

    "Gripping . . . Pierpont brings this family of four to life in sharply observed detail. . . . An acute observer of social comedy, Ms. Pierpont has a keen eye for the absurd."The Wall Street Journal

    "Pierpont's language is heart-stopping. . . . Between Pierpont's literary finesse and her captivating characters, [Among the Ten Thousand Things] reads like a page-turner."Entertainment Weekly (grade: A)

    "A twisty, gripping story—that packs an emotional wallop."O: The Oprah Magazine
    "There are going to be as many ingenious twists and turns in this literary novel as there are in a top-notch work of suspense like Gone Girl."—Maureen Corrigan, NPR's Fresh Air
    "Tender, delicately perceptive . . . Pierpont's voice is wry and confident, and she is a fine anthropologist of New York life."The Washington Post
    "Pierpont displays a precocious gift for language and observation. . . . She captures the minutiae of loneliness that pushes us away from each other and sometimes brings us back."San Francisco Chronicle
    From the Trade Paperback edition.
  • NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
  • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE AND THE HUFFINGTON POSTFeatures an exclusive conversation between Julia Pierpont and Lena Dunham
    For fans of Jennifer Egan, Jonathan Franzen, Lorrie Moore, and Curtis Sittenfeld, Among the Ten Thousand Things is a dazzling first novel, a portrait of an American family on the cusp of irrevocable change, and a startlingly original story of love and time lost.

    Jack Shanley is a well-known New York artist, charming and vain, who doesn't mean to plunge his family into crisis. His wife, Deb, gladly left behind a difficult career as a dancer to raise the two children she adores. In the ensuing years, she has mostly avoided coming face-to-face with the weaknesses of the man she married. But then an anonymously sent package arrives in the mail: a cardboard box containing sheaves of printed emails chronicling Jack's secret life. The package is addressed to Deb, but it's delivered into the wrong hands: her children's.
    With this vertiginous opening begins a debut that is by turns funny, wise, and indescribably moving. As the Shanleys spin apart into separate orbits, leaving New York in an attempt to regain their bearings, fifteen-year-old Simon feels the allure of adult freedoms for the first time, while eleven-year-old Kay wanders precariously into a grown-up world she can't possibly understand. Writing with extraordinary precision, humor, and beauty, Julia Pierpont has crafted a timeless, hugely enjoyable novel about the bonds of family life—their brittleness, and their resilience.
    Praise for Among the Ten Thousand Things
    "A luscious, smart summer novel . . . by a blazingly talented young author."The New York Times Book Review

    "This book is one of the funniest, and most emotionally honest, I've read in a long time."—Jonathan Safran Foer

    "Obsessively compelling . . . emotionally sophisticated . . . Among the Ten Thousand Things rises above [other novels] for its imagined structure, sentence-by-sentence punch, and pure humanity."Vanity Fair

    "Gripping . . . Pierpont brings this family of four to life in sharply observed detail. . . . An acute observer of social comedy, Ms. Pierpont has a keen eye for the absurd."The Wall Street Journal

    "Pierpont's language is heart-stopping. . . . Between Pierpont's literary finesse and her captivating characters, [Among the Ten Thousand Things] reads like a page-turner."Entertainment Weekly (grade: A)

    "A twisty, gripping story—that packs an emotional wallop."O: The Oprah Magazine
    "There are going to be as many ingenious twists and turns in this literary novel as there are in a top-notch work of suspense like Gone Girl."—Maureen Corrigan, NPR's Fresh Air
    "Tender, delicately perceptive . . . Pierpont's voice is wry and confident, and she is a fine anthropologist of New York life."The Washington Post
    "Pierpont displays a precocious gift for language and observation. . . . She captures the minutiae of loneliness that pushes us away from each other and sometimes brings us back."San Francisco Chronicle
    From the Trade Paperback edition.
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    Excerpts-
    • From the book ***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof***

      Copyright © 2015 Julia Pierpoint



      PART ONE


      New York,

      the End of May


      Dear Deborah,

      Do you go by Deborah? It sounds so uptight. I bet you hate Debbie. I hate Debbie, too.

      Jack calls you Deb.

      This is a letter about Jack.

      I began sleeping with your husband last June. We were together for seven months, almost as long as I've known him.

      We did it in my apartment. Or I went to his studio, a lot. One time at the Comfort Inn in midtown, last August. He used his Visa. Look it up. I know about Kay, her getting bullied at school, and I know about when Simon got caught shoplifting at the Best Buy. I never asked to know about your family. It's just that sometimes, he needed me.

      In movies, when the woman is dumped, one thing to do is to take all the love letters and pictures from photo booths and old T-shirts, and to set them on fire. This is to help the woman move on.

      I don't have any pictures from photo booths. What I have is email, and a little blue folder on my hard drive called "Chats." So, look what I did. I printed them, at a FedEx on Houston Street. $87.62. I haven't had my own printer since college. The hours and hours made pages and pages, none of it so romantic, a lot dirtier than I remembered. I bought a handle of Georgi at the liquor store so it would really burn—the Jamaican behind the register gave me extra bags because it was hard to keep the pages together—and I carried everything back, the sum of my love rolled in black-and-gold plastic, and dumped it all out into the bathtub.

      But it didn't seem fair, that I should be left with the mess, when I use this tub, when I stand in it almost every day. So I got this box together, to give to him.

      And then just now I was looking at it, and I realized whom I should be giving it to. You.

      Falling in love is just an excuse for bad behavior. If you're fucking someone in a way that you mean it, the rest of you is fucked also. Did I care about you, your children? Did I care about my work? Ask me if I cared. If I care, even.

      The thing that kills me, that I can't get over, is I didn't do anything to make him stop wanting me. I didn't change. I held very still on purpose. I weighed myself the other day for the first time in a long time. I thought for sure I'd gained weight, like twenty pounds. Twenty pounds is maybe enough to change the way someone feels about you. But no.

      You get migraines, right? He told me you do. I get them too, Deb. Do you think maybe it's him? That the migraines are coming from him? Like if we drank the same dirty water and got cancer, or if we both lived a block from 9/11 and got cancer, or if we did anything the same and got cancer, then we'd trace it to the source, right, and expect a settlement, wouldn't we. What are you settling for, Deb? How much did you get?


      There were things you learned early, growing up in the city, and there were things you learned late, or not at all. Bicycles were one of the things Kay had missed, along with tree swings and car pools, dishwashers and game rooms in the basement. The only style of swimming Kay knew was the style of not drowning, any direction but down. Instead of a dog, they had a cat, and before that a cockatiel and a cockatoo, sea monkeys, lizards, gerbils that made more gerbils, one regrettable guinea pig.

      She made up for what she'd missed with things New York had taught her. Like how long you had to walk after the DON'T WALK started to blink. The way to hail a cab...

    About the Author-
    • Julia Pierpont is a graduate of the NYU Creative Writing Program, where she received the Rona Jaffe Foundation Graduate Fellowship, as well as the Stein Fellowship.
    Reviews-
    • Publisher's Weekly

      Starred review from February 2, 2015
      The perennial theme of marital infidelity is given a brisk, insightful, and sophisticated turn in Pierpont’s impressive debut. When their father’s emails to his former mistress are inadvertently discovered by siblings Kay Shanley, 11, and Simon, 15, the result is the unraveling of the family. Their father, Jack Shanley, is a well-known conceptual artist and self-indulgent seducer, and he sees his career go downhill due to a variety of circumstances. Deb, his wife, carries guilt from having broken up Jack’s first marriage, only to realize that he’s an inveterate womanizer who feels his indiscretions should be forgiven. Pierpont’s keen observational gaze illuminates a strata of Manhattan society in which money and privilege abide alongside the gritty, drug-and-alcohol-fueled margins of social behavior. She is also particularly adept at portraying alienation in the young (Kay starts writing dirty Seinfeld fan fiction in a notebook; Simon reads The Fountainhead because he knows his mother doesn’t want him to) and the parents’ awkward attempts to communicate with their self-protective children. Her sense of humor surfaces, especially in a scene at a gallery opening, when Jack’s carefully planned and shocking installation goes awry. Pierpont throws an audacious twist midway through the book, giving the slow, painful denouement a heartbreaking inevitability. This novel leaves an indelible portrait of lives blown off course by bad choices, loss of trust, and an essential inability to communicate.

    • Kirkus

      May 1, 2015
      Long-simmering tensions boil over in the Shanley household to devastating effect in debut novelist Pierpont's drama of domestic unravelling. It's not that the news contained in the anonymous package is a surprise to Deb: not the hundreds of emails documenting her husband's affair and certainly not his lover's cliched confessional which accompanies it. It's that her 11-year-old daughter, Kay, stumbled upon the box first and that she and her 15-year-old brother, Simon, have now read their father's messages ("i can't explain why i get so sad when you make me so happy") that makes the reality unbearable. And so begins the dissolution of the Shanleys or, at least, the Shanleys as they once were: Jack, the successful sculptor and not-unlikable narcissist married to Deb, the former ballet dancer who happily traded her career for motherhood. As their marriage crumbles, Jack and Deb set out on separate courses away from New York. Meanwhile, Kay and Simon contend with the loss while navigating their own coming-of-age struggles. We know how the story ends because Pierpont tells us: a spectacularly melancholy interlude midway through puts an end to any suspense. But suspense is hardly the point; it's the characters' rich emotional lives that propel the story forward. Deb and Jack and Simon and Kay could easily have been reduced to types-the suffering wife, the womanizing husband, the stoned teenage son, the sensitive tween daughter-but in Pierpont's hands, they're alive: human, difficult, and deeply lonely. It's loneliness that's at the novel's core, hitting unsentimentally and with blunt, nauseating force. Which is not to say that there isn't serious humor among the heartbreak (Kay's penchant for writing Seinfeld fan fiction is a particular delight), and for all the book's sadness, much of its lingering force comes from Pierpont's sharp-witted detailing of human absurdity. A quietly wrenching family portrait.

      COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

    • Library Journal

      February 1, 2015
      They look like a golden couple, but former ballet dancer Deb is starting to regret her marriage to too-cool sculptor Jack and throws herself into raising Simon and sweet, innocent Kay. Alas, it's Kay who opens the package addressed to Deb containing email evidence of Jack's torrid affair. Pierpont received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Graduate Fellowship and a Stein Fellowship while attending the NYU Creative Writing Program.

      Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

    • Entertainment Weekly "A luscious, smart summer novel . . . about a family blown apart and yet still painfully tethered together, written by a blazingly talented young author whose prose is so assured and whose observations are so precise and deeply felt that it's almost an insult to bring up her age. . . . [Julia] Pierpont illustrates how hard it can be to grow up, at any age--just one of the many reasons Among the Ten Thousand Things is such an impressive debut."--Helen Schulman, The New York Times Book Review "[An] excellent, insightful first novel . . . a gripping portrait of the disintegration of the Shanley family . . . Pierpont brings this family of four to life in sharply observed detail. . . . An acute observer of social comedy, Ms. Pierpont has a keen eye for the absurd."--Moira Hodgson, The Wall Street Journal "Pierpont's language is heart-stopping. In one scene, with her characters suspended in emotional turmoil, she pauses to describe their empty house. There's even a sparse, poetic interlude in the middle of the book that skips across the family's lives for decades. . . . Then she rewinds the decades and picks up where she left off. It's the kind of structural risk that shouldn't work, but in her skilled hands it lands beautifully. Technically, of course, this is a domestic drama. But between Pierpont's literary finesse and her captivating characters, it reads like a page-turner. [Grade:] A"
    • Maureen Corrigan, NPR's Fresh Air "What sets Pierpont apart . . . is her storytelling chops. The chapters that follow that dramatic opening make it clear that there are going to be as many ingenious twists and turns in this literary novel as there are in a top-notch work of suspense like Gone Girl. The effect is dizzying: as a reader you feel, as the Shanleys do, that the earth keeps shifting beneath your feet."
    • San Francisco Chronicle "[A] tender, delicately perceptive account of one family torn apart by infidelity . . . Pierpont's voice is wry and confident, and she is a fine anthropologist of New York life, especially for those creative types who never quite manage to fit in with cultural expectations."--The Washington Post "Bracing . . . Pierpont's killer ending reveals the long reach of the affair's consequences (sorry, no plot spoilers). Consider this a twisty, gripping story--that packs an emotional wallop."--O: The Oprah Magazine "An emotionally sophisticated, nuanced examination of a splintering Upper West Side New York City family . . . Among the Ten Thousand Things rises above for its imagined structure, sentence-by-sentence punch, and pure humanity. Weaving readers through the New York streets with the Shanleys, and in and out of each of their minds as they try to survive the infidelity that's torn them from the life they've built, Pierpont has written a debut so honest and mature that it will resonate with even the most action-hungry readers--perhaps against reason. Her story is the one we'll be talking about this summer, and well beyond."--Meredith Turits, Vanity Fair "[A] sharp, knowing dissection of an unraveling marriage . . . This is the first novel by Ms. Pierpont, . . . and it shows a remarkably mature understanding of the delicate emotional balances in families--how feelings can flow back and forth like electricity in some kind of zero-sum game--and the subtle, irrational vicissitudes of people's psyches. . . . It is an old story, a crumbling marriage, but Ms. Pierpont gives it fresh insights, making the particular unhappiness (and occasional happiness) of the Shanleys by turns poignant, funny and very sad. . . . The book really comes alive when she gets inside the children's heads and follows them around. Like the best fictional alienated-children-of-New York--Holden Caulfield; the Brooklyn kids in Noah Baumbach's film The Squid and the Whale; more recently, the teenager at the heart of Peter Cameron's novel <
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